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Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 6:00pm

Senate Rules: The Road To Kill The Ethics Bill?

The Senate Ethics reform package which would place a $100 gift cap on lobbyist gifts to legislators is now in the hands the Senate Rules Committee. But ethics watchdog groups say that’s a way to stall, if not kill, the bill altogether.

Once a state lawmaker introduces a bill, it's ordinarily referred to a related committee for hearings, amendments and votes.

But Lt. Governor Casey Cagle sent the Senate Ethics reform measure directly to the Senate Rules Committee. “Rules” normally doesn’t hold hearings on bills. Its role is to decide whether to send bills to the Senate floor for a final vote. 

Ethics watchdog groups warn this is another political sleight of hand to avoid gift caps. 

Common Cause’s William Perry says it’s obvious why ethics reform is not being made a priority.

“The people who are making the decisions are the ones getting $6,000 golf trips, sporting tickets and fancy meals…they’re showing no other indication of why they’re opposed to this other than they enjoy getting the gifts.”

But Senate Rules Committee Chairman Don Balfour, a Republican from Gwinnett County, says they have been working on other things:

"We just received it a week ago and we’re handing it out to committee members and having them take a look at it."

Last year, Senator Balfour accepted more than $13,000 in gifts from lobbyists.  

The amount per gift has varied greatly among lawmakers.

Speaker of the House David Ralston has been under fire for a $17,000 European trip gifted to him from a Virginia lobbyist.